Monday, November 2, 2015

Christian Authors: Dealing With Aborted Writing Projects

Updates on November 30, 2015 are shown in red
If you are a Christian author, or any other type of author for that matter, you may understand the emotion behind a decision to abandon a work before it is completed. Please allow me to confirm your thoughts: it does bring out a strong emotional response.

In 2010, I received an email from a missionary in Spain asking about A Topical Treasury of Proverbs, "Would you like your book in Spanish?" I responded that I needed to pray about it, hoping to get a direction from the Lord.

In 2011, I sensed the Lord's plans included not just a Spanish version but also versions in several other languages. A significant re-write was needed. I received permission from a well-known publisher that has produced various Bible translations in multiple languages. I began immediately.

The Preparation Effort
After two years effort including thousands of hours of toiling labor, I gave up. Here are the reasons why:
  • The Input of Others – With the work probably 85% complete and a series of books under way, I began showing portions to others. Did you know that your comments, when combined with those of others, can really take the wind out of a person's sail? They did for me.
    At 5:30am on Thanksgiving morning, I was drawn back to this effort. The Lord showed me that I have been lured into putting too much emphasis on man's approval and not enough on His. I began again.

  • Technology Issues – My approach was different than most writers. I used Microsoft Access to categorize Proverbs into roughly eighty topics and subtopics. My goal was to completely bypass Microsoft Word, going directly from the database to a PDF. While I used this technique for A Topical Treasury of Proverbs, the effort to include multiple languages with various fonts (think Russian and Chinese) was overwhelming to me. I also began thinking about the marketing effort to these countries. What words do I include on my webpages when marketing to the Spanish or French?
    The Lord basically instructed me to take one step at a time. For now, concentrate on the English version. There is much to be done, get on with my work. Therefore, I put on hold another more ambitious project that I was working on.

  • Retribution – Proverbs includes many verses that discuss punishment and penalties for the disobedient person. Are you perfectly obedient? I'm not. In the New Testament sense, God gives grace to the sinner who believes in Him. He does not demand perfection, He is looking for faith and love. Proverbs does not provide the assurance of grace, faith, and love. I was not able to find a way to include that sense in the manuscript.
    The Lord drew me back to my most recent (2012) revisions about retribution. He had given me some understanding at that time; my sense is that He will complete this. So, there is hope in this after all.

  • God's No Longer In This Project – I have written two other books, Joshua's Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Chiasms of Joshua and A Garden of Love. In both of those books, I experienced the strong presence of the Lord as the Holy Spirit inspired one portion of the manuscript after another. In this Proverbs re-write, the work became drudgery. During those times, I had some divine inspirations but they were definitely not as frequent.
    As I started working on the description of the topics, the Lord modified my understanding of the major theme over a three-day period. Now I was inspired once again. I suppose the three year hiatus was necessary so that I could remove my old understanding as He revealed it more completely.

Dealing With Discouragement
Should I have given up? I don't know, but I will say that I have no desire to resurrect that project. The last time I really worked on it was in 2012.

Honestly, I no longer enjoy Proverbs as I do other books of the Bible. Maybe that is the heart issue that I'm dealing with. Or maybe it is deeper.

If I don't enjoy this re-write, why the discouragement? Because I am such a task-oriented fellow.

Yesterday, November 1, 2015, was the last day of a four-year period that I could have used that Bible translation in English. Today I am writing that Bible publisher a letter thanking them for that opportunity. I need to tell them that I was not successful.

Successful authors must be self-motivated and must complete their work. Readers do not buy incomplete works. I didn't complete it. So the enemy the devil then began to make me believe I am not successful. "No finished work, therefore not successful. God is not in it, stop writing." Can you see that train of thought?

The truth is that I gained a great deal of theological insight during the period when I wrote this. Through this and other venues at the same time, God was teaching me a greater understanding of grace. He was showing me the value of overlooking the high values I placed on myself and others.

God wants relationships, not perfection. Grace is then the vehicle for a relaxed view of perfection. Honestly, I'm still learning that but I believe I am much further than where I was.

How about you? Are there lessons you learned through your failures? What is the Holy Spirit attempting to have you receive?

If you have a large screen monitor, can you see the flower on the right side of the screen? That is the awesome blossom from a relatively unknown plant called Gaura. I placed that photo on this blog in 2011 or 2012. To me, this flower is a symbolic picture of Lady Wisdom – she is a key component to understanding this book of Proverbs.

So now the Holy Spirit has changed my plans. I'm enthused and I'm once again in pursuit. I need to contact that Bible translator for their permission once again. I wonder, do other authors give up, only to find they are led to resurrect a "dead" project?